Sometimes, a few nerves are a good thing. When you are performing in front of an audience for example. When I sing solo at Church, something I have done most Sundays for over 20 years now, I STILL get nervous. Properly nervous, with wobbly knees and shaky legs and that sort of thing. Interestingly, I rarely shake or wobble before I perform. I get scared afterwards and THEN shake like a leaf. I know, I am odd.
However… if you feel like you have suffered more than 4 panic attacks (and you will definitely know the difference between nervousness and a panic attack), then it is not a good thing at all. In fact, it is a very bad thing indeed. Why? Because your system is saturated with Adrenalin and your body is living in a constantly stressed situation, never knowing whether to fight or to run for the hills. This was great when you happened along the odd sabre toothed tiger… but not so great when you are just need to get the laundry done or go to the supermarket.
If your anxiety disorder is of a very high level (like the “I am not going out of the house ever again” level) then please, please, please get professional help. I am not a mental health worker in any way and would not want to lead you astray with any advice. If however, you get scared at the thought of speaking to a lot of people, or entering a crowded room, or you are worried what will happen if something or other happened, then perhaps I can help.
Usually, if you do feel nervous, then that feeling will go away when whatever was causing the nerves goes away. If it does not go away, then please see a mental health professional. There is no stigma, at least not in my mind, in seeing someone who knows what they are doing. I have done it, and it has helped me immensely. So if you are struggling, then please, do what you know is right.
My book of choice this month, “Home Remedies from a Country Doctor” has something to say on this topic. Here is how you will know if you are suffering a panic attack – you have moments of terror, with breathing trouble, chest pains, a heart that is racing, the feeling of choking or chills and hot flashes. You can also experience dizziness, or a feeling that the room is closing in. I am lucky enough to say I have had perhaps one of those in my life. Only one. I have no wish to repeat the occasion, but if it is only one, then I have nothing to worry about. For an occasional bout of nerves though there are some things that you can try.
Planning ahead (which is one of my favourite occupations, because it usually involves lists) is a really good way of getting over nerves. Effectively you are telling your subconscious that it is okay, you know what is coming, and it might keep your emotions on an even keel.
If your nervousness is caused by a phobia of some kind, then perhaps exposing yourself to what causes your fear is a good idea. If you are horrified of spiders then I do not countenance a few minutes is a glass tank with a tarantula and their extended family, but if you are afraid of flying, then actually going on a flight can really help with that phobia. There are courses run by several airlines to help passengers who are scared of flying, so look into it if you want to stop being scared.
Another bit of good advice is what to do if you are having a panic attack. You need to remember the acronym AWARE. A stands for Awareness – label your feelings and your panic as just that. You are not dying, you are not having a heart attack, you are panicking. W stands for watchfulness. You need to watch your own symptoms and as all panic attacks have a pattern, you can sometimes watch the symptoms come in waves. Surf the symptoms as if they are a wave. Wait for it to pass. The second A stands for Action. Stay active when you are panicking. Don’t freeze to the spot, or retreat to a broom cupboard or something. Staying active keeps the mind busy and may lessen the panic attack symptoms. R is for Relax. You can practice a lot of techniques which can relax you and also lessen the symptoms you are feeling. They may include breathing exercise, distraction or biofeedback processes. Have a look on line for relaxation techniques that might work for you. And finally… E stands for Enjoy life. Panic attacks happen. Don’t let them rule your life. Just deal with them as they arise and keep on doing the things that make you smile.